Shortly before the start of the war in Ukraine, on February 24, the presence of MiG-31K fighters, a priori armed with the hypersonic missile Kh-47M2 Kinjal [ou Kinzhal]had been reported in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Lithuania and Poland.
As a reminder, being part of the six “invicible” and “strategic weapons” unveiled by the head of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, in March 2018, the Kinjal [code Otan : AS-24 « Killjoy »] is an aeroballistic missile, derived from the Iskander. Equipped with a 500 kg fragmentation warhead or a nuclear warhead, it can hit a target 2000 km away. Also, the deployment of MiG-31K in Kaliningrad then put most European capitals within reach.
If, at the time, he had said nothing about this deployment, the Ministry of Defense ended up announcing, last August 18, that three MiG-31K “equipped with Kinjal hypersonic missiles”, had just be “moved to Chkalovsk airfield, Kaliningrad region”. And to specify that they would be kept on alert 24 hours a day.
Since then, Moscow and Minsk have decided to create a common “regional military grouping”, taking the pretext of a “worsening of the situation on the western borders of the Union [russo-biélorusse] “. And to this end, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense announced the arrival in Belarus of “9,000 Russian soldiers” and “about 170 tanks”. But according to the Gazeta.ru site, MiG-31s were also expected.
Obviously, and while the battle of Kherson [sud] looms, kyiv fears a Russian offensive led from Belarus… while Ukrainian strategic infrastructure [électricité, distribution d’eau, etc] are now regularly targeted by Moscow.
Be that as it may, the information from Gazetu.ru has just been confirmed by British intelligence, with supporting satellite imagery.
Latest Defense Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 1 November 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/ohQH7fYyqM
— Ministry of Defense 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) November 1, 2022
Indeed, in the update it published on 1 November, the British Ministry of Defense [MoD] claims that at least two MiG-31Ks were deployed on October 17 at Machulishchy Air Base, located near MInsk in central Belarus. In addition, it reports the presence of crates large enough to carry Kh-47M2 Kinjal missiles.
As the MoD points out, this is the first time that this type of missile has been deployed in Belarus, “probably” to send a message to the West and underline Minsk’s growing involvement in the war.
Moreover, whether it is deployed in Kaliningrad or Machulishchy, the Kinjal missile always has the European capitals within reach… The difference is no doubt due to greater room for maneuver for the MiG-31K. Moreover, this movement towards Belarus provides only a limited advantage when it comes to hitting targets on Ukrainian territory. Such is, in any case, the estimate of the MoD.
Especially since the strikes carried out against Ukrainian targets with Kinjal missiles had no significant effect on the course of the war, as noted by Colonel David Pappalardo, in the latest issue of the magazine Vortex , the Air & Space Force.
“Russia announced on March 19 that it used its Kh-47M2 Kinjal airborne ballistic missile fired from a modernized MiG-31 against an ammunition depot in Ukraine for the first time. Here again, the communication essentially focused on the hyper-velocity nature of this ammunition for the purposes of intimidation and strategic reporting to NATO. However, the Kinjal is not a breakthrough weapon giving Russia a significant operational advantage in the war in Ukraine. On the contrary, it is only an adaptation of the Iskander M surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which has already been fired many times since the beginning of the conflict to create similar military effects,” wrote Colonel Pappalardo.
In reality, the strategic nature of the Kinjal is above all due to the military load it carries… whereas it can cover 2000 km in less than ten minutes, which makes it difficult to counter.